Managing GERD

Medications that are meant to alleviate the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) otherwise known as acid reflux, are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in North America.  Although medications such as Prilosec, Zantac, and Nexium can be effective, many people will experience the symptoms (heartburn, indigestion, nausea, hiccups, etc.) as soon as they discontinue use of the medication.  This is why many people find themselves on heartburn medications for several years.  What those people are often unaware of is that long term use of these drugs (which belong in either the H2 antagonist or proton pump inhibitor class) may increase your risk of fractures, mineral/vitamin deficiencies, and improper digestion.

So what are some other ways of managing GERD?

First, you should see your primary healthcare provider to see what is the root cause of the symptoms you are experiencing.  Many people believe that the only cause of GERD or heartburn is excess stomach acid that flows back up into the esophagus.  However, this is only one of the possible causes.  Contrary to popular belief, a second cause of acid reflux can actually be low stomach acid (hypochlorrhydria).  With decreased stomach acid, the junction between the esophagus and stomach doesn't close properly, leading to the reflux of the available stomach acid.  If you find that your symptoms are not relieved with the use of acid-suppressing drugs, talk to your ND/MD about the possibility of low stomach acid.

Other risk factors for GERD include:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia

Here are easy things to incorporate into your life to improve GERD-related symptoms:

  • Eating smaller meals
  • Avoiding irritating foods (spicy foods, sour foods/vinegars, citrus, chocolate, coffee, etc)
  • Walking around for a few minutes after meals rather than lying down
  • Drinking soothing teas (ginger, peppermint, chamomile, etc) after meals
  • Sleep with a higher pillow or an extra pillow 
Some natural substances that may also help include:
  • Slippery elm lozenges
  • Gentian extract
  • Apple cider vinegar
As always, consult with your ND or MD before beginning any treatments to make sure there is not a more serious underlying condition.

All the best,

PubMed Health:

Dr. Cho, ND is a naturopathic doctor based in Pickering, Ontario and Richmond Hill, Ontario.  She maintains a private practice focused in pain management and sports nutrition, in addition to a general family practice at Durham Natural Health Centre.  To learn more about Dr. Cho, book a complimentary 15 minute consult by clicking here.  Not in the Durham Region?  Contact her through to learn about more options.


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